Situation Update | Ler Doh Soh Township, Mergui-Tavoy District (June to November 2015)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in November 2015. It was written by a community member in Mergui-Tavoy District who has been trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. It is presented below translated exactly as originally written, save for minor edits for clarity and security.
I want to report some of the general events that occurred in 2015 in Ler Doh Soh [Township], Mergui-Tavoy District. This includes the situation for civilians; civilians’ livelihoods; Tatmadaw activities; education; development [projects]; healthcare and the civilian situation; companies active in the township; the KNU [Karen National Union] situation; and the NGO [non-governmental organisation] situation. The information in this situation update was documented between June and November.
There are three [large] areas in Ler Doh Soh Township, Mergui-Tavoy District. They are K’Moh Thway, D’Weh Hkee, and Htee Ler Klay [large] areas. Most of the villages in K’Moh Thway and Htee Ler Klay [large areas] are [ethnic] Karen villages. There are fewer Karen villages in D’Weh Hkee [large] area; most villages there are [ethnic] Mon and Bamar villages. There are four ethnic groups in our township: Karen, Bamar, Mon, and Tavoyan people. Most of the Karen people earn their living from plantations and farms, while fewer villagers work with animal husbandry. [In 2015,] some Karen villagers from rural areas [in other townships] also came to earn their living in our township because of unfavourable weather and floods in their areas. They were not able to work on their own lands; therefore, they came to earn their living in our township. Some of the villagers are working for rich people and some of them are working with road construction. They get 5,000 kyats (US $4.28) per day, and 5,000 kyats is enough for their personal use such as food. But 5,000 kyats is not enough for the people who have families. Mon people earn their living from rubber plantations and some of them go to Thailand to work. After they come back from Thailand they start their own businesses in their villages. Four months ago, some robbers of Mon ethnicity came and demanded money [from people] in A--- and B--- villages. Because of that event, the villagers stay with worry [are worried] about the robbery event that occurred. There were five to six members in that group of robbers. I got to know about this event from a villager. Some villagers are working with the Maw Ti Ka, To Tel, and Peh T’Roh Nee companies. They get paid by the companies. Some villagers are working with U Paing Company Ltd. The company was set up in 1997. To Tel, Maw Ti Ka, and Pel Sa Go Ne companies supported the villagers [in terms of building] schools, churches, bridges, water pipes, electricity, and libraries for the villagers’ needs.
In terms of livelihoods, the villagers in Ler Doh Soh Township mostly earn their living from [rotational] cultivation, farming, logging, and agriculture. This year, the villagers suffered from unfavourable weather. Some villagers are also doing logging. In the past, the KNU prohibited logging but the [Burma/Myanmar] government allowed it, so the KNU later had to allow logging. Most villagers who live in T’Moh Thway and Htee Ler Klay large areas earn their living from betel nut plantations. In Dweh Hkee large area, most of them work on rubber and cashew nut plantations. [Many of the villagers from] Aee T’Rah Sa, Shway Pleh, and Kah Boh villages in Dweh Hkee large area, are working with the Gas Pipe Line Company.
There are seven battalions [operating] in Ler Doh Soh Township: [L]IB [Light Infantry Battalions (LIBs)] #406, #407, #408, #409, #410, #282, and #273. The Tatmadaw activity has been decreasing ever since the [2012 preliminary] ceasefire was signed. If their columns patrolled, they [usually] stayed in the villages. Most of the [above mentioned] battalions are based in Dweh Hkee large area. There are no Tatmadaw battalions based in K’Moh Thway and Htee Ler Klay [large] areas. Tatmadaw [Light Infantry] Battalion #207 is not based in K’Moh Thway large area; it is based on the [Thailand-Burma/Myanmar] border. In the past, the Tatmadaw used to go to the villages and ask for chickens and pigs, but those types of incidents do not occur anymore. At present time, the Tatmadaw [soldiers] have good relationships with villagers. There are no problems between the villagers and the Tatmadaw. The Mon military [Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA)] is also based here, and they have their headquarters in Myaw Hkaw village on the township border. The Mon military [MNLA] surveyed lands and asked for money. Their headquarters [leaders] had decided to take 3,000 [kyats] (US $2.57) per acre of land [that they surveyed] but they asked for 5,000 [kyats (US$ 4.28) instead]. It caused problems between the villagers and the Mon military [MNLA].
All the schools in our township are built by the Burma/Myanmar government. There are 13 villages in K’Moh Thway [large] area and two middle schools are situated there. One middle school is situated in Hkaw Paw village and another school is situated in Hkler Hpoo village. There are primary schools in 11 other villages. Since the [2012 preliminary] ceasefire was signed, Karen language and culture have been allowed to be taught in the Burma/Myanmar government schools. In Dweh Hkee [large] area, most of the villages are [ethnic] Bamar [villages] and fewer [ethnic] Karen villages are located there. In the [ethnic] Karen villages in Dweh Hkee [large] area, Karen language, culture, and history can be taught in the schools. Each [ethnic] Karen village has their own school committee and they hold meetings every month. We are allowed to teach Karen language because our township administrators went to discuss [these issues] with the Karen ethnic ministers [of the Burma/Myanmar government]. The people who teach Karen language do not get paid by the Burma/Myanmar government; the KNU gives them pocket money. The Karen text books are provided by the Kaw Thoo Lei [KNU] government. The level of education is getting higher because most Karen people pass Standard 10. Some people continue with university studies and then work with NGOs and the Burma/Myanmar government. Some people can support their families even though they have not passed Standard 10, and some become female and male teachers. If we compare with previous years, education is improving. In the past our grandparents did not value education, and they also did not know the value of education. Thanks to development, the thinking of our parents has changed in terms of [how we look at] education nowadays. In the past, they used to say that you were able to eat rice whether you were educated or not. Nowadays, that idea does not exist anymore. The KNU do not have their own school in our township, but the Karen Education Department [KED] of the KNU arranges with Karen teachers who teach Karen language in [Burma/Myanmar government schools]. The KNU provides school materials each year. Before the KNU signed the [2012 preliminary] ceasefire, almost all the teachers who taught in the Karen area [villages] were Bamar teachers. We also had to pay for note books and brooms when we enrolled the students. But since 2014 or 2015, the Burma/Myanmar government provides free education for primary students, and students do not have to pay school fees or pay for school materials.
The healthcare situation has also improved a little bit because one more hospital and a clinic were built [in Ler Doh Soh Township]. The hospital is located in K’Moh Thway large area, in Htoh Kee Hpoh Noh village, and it is run by KDM. A clinic is situated in Hkaw Paw village. There is also a hospital in D’Weh Hkee large area and it was built by the Burma/Myanmar government. A medical administration office has been built by the KNU in Ler Ther village but the construction is not yet complete. There are no serious illnesses facing the villagers in our township. They only face common illnesses that they can treat with herbal medicine. If they get serious illnesses they go for medical treatment at Dawei Hospital [in Dawei Town].
Company location [situation]
There are a few companies [operating] in our township. Ba Wa Pin Maing, Wa Kon Maing, and Pa Ka Ri Maing [companies] operate in Htee Ler Klay large area. Those maing [mining] companies conduct mineral mining, and the rivers have been affected because of the mineral mining. There are two huge companies [operating] in D’Weh Hkee [large area], the Gas Pipeline Company and U Paing Company Ltd. There are fewer companies [operating] in our township because the CSLD [Community Sustainable Livelihood and Development Committee], headed by Zaw P’Laing Baw, is active there. ITD [Italian-ThaiDevelopmentPublic Company Ltd.] has already stopped constructing this road [without finishing it].
Our [Ler Doh Soh] Township office is situated in K’Moh Thway large area in Kler Hpoo village. Few people work there. In terms of the military, Battalion #10 led by Commander Doo Na [is based in Ler Doh Soh Township] and three companies [are under the control of Battalion #10]. Company #1 and #3 take responsibility [are active] in D’Weh Hkee large area and near the border with Thailand. Company #2 takes responsibility [are active] in K’Moh Thway large area. The Karen National Defence Organisation [KNDO] is also based in our township with 20 members.
A few NGOs are operating in our township, for example the NRC [Norwegian Refugee Council], Tanintharyi Nature Reserve Project, and CSLD. The NRC educates villagers regarding agriculture systems and holds car repair shop trainings. The Tanintharyi Nature Reserve Project does research about the wild animals and orchids, and they organise villagers and have formed a CF forest. CSLD was formed by the KNU and their activities are related to the nature.
The information above covers events that happened during the whole year.